Tigers waste chances, Fulmer's outing in Game 1 shutout
Chicago – The frustration level continues to rise as the Tigers’ offense continues to sputter.
“You can’t win if you don’t score runs,” was manager Brad Ausmus’ terse assessment after the Tigers dropped the first of a doubleheader, 3-0, against the White Sox – and the second of three games in the span of 24 hours – on Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Twelve Tigers runners were stranded on the bases and another strong start by Michael Fulmer was wasted. The Tigers have been blanked in his last two starts.
It was Fulmer's 10th straight quality start. He and Justin Verlander are the only pitchers in team history to start a season with 10 straight quality starts.
“If the team is not scoring runs, then I can’t give up any runs,” said Fulmer, who only needed 96 pitches for his eight-inning effort. “That’s all on me. I need to do a better job of putting up zeros every single inning, no matter what.”
That’s a harsh self-assessment in light of the Tigers' current offensive malaise. After striking out 13 times in the rain-soaked game Friday night, the Tigers were punched out 15 more times in Game 1 – including eight of the last nine hitters.
“The players are always frustrated when you don’t win games,” Ausmus said. “They are frustrated when they don’t get hits. But it happens.”
White Sox rookie Tyler Danish, called up from Triple-A for the spot start, walked six in five innings and the Tigers couldn’t make him pay.
“Right now we are just not getting the big hit,” Ausmus said. “We are getting plenty of guys on base, we’re just not coming up with the big hit. At some point we will. We will break the ice and we’ll be fine.
“That just wasn’t the case in this one.”
Danish walked three batters in the first inning after Andrew Romine led off the game with a single – and not a single run crossed home plate.
Miguel Cabrera hit into a double play. And, with the bases loaded and ahead in the count 3-1, Nick Castellanos bounced out to end the inning.
In five innings, the Tigers put nine runners on base against Danish and couldn’t score.
The chances kept coming.
In the seventh against reliever Anthony Swarzak, Jose Iglesias walked and Romine, after a lengthy battle, singled to left. Alex Avila and Cabrera struck out. Victor Martinez walked to load the bases, but Swarzak struck out Justin Upton swinging through a 95-mph fastball.
Reliever Tommy Kahnle struck out the side in the eighth after a lead-off walk. He punched out Tyler Collins (three strikeouts on the day), pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez and Iglesias.
Closer David Robertson fanned two more in a clean ninth.
“It’s tough,” Fulmer said. “Their team walked seven guys and we just can’t get that one hit. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s going to happen, it’s baseball. But I’ll tell you what, once we start getting that one key hit, we’re going to turn this season around.”
Fulmer was at 67 pitches through seven innings, that’s how efficient he was. He was in trouble only in the fifth. An infield single by Tim Anderson, an opposite-field dunker by Matt Davidson and a bunt single by Omar Narvaez loaded the bases with no outs.
Fulmer, undeterred, induced a quick 6-4-3 double play from Yolmer Sanchez. The run scored on the play, but the rally was snuffed.
“It was good, just a little unlucky,” Fulmer said. “There was a lot of soft contact today. I think I gave up one hard-hit ball and that was in the eighth.”
Fulmer’s sinker was clocking at 97-98 mph through the eighth inning. He got 10 ground ball outs with it.
“My timing was better, release-point wise,” he said. “And my sinker was really working well – lot of soft contact and a lot of ground balls. I maybe threw three or four four-seamers all day. Once I find my timing and release point on everything, once I can get it out front, it’s pretty firm.”
The White Sox scored twice more of him in the eighth, doing damage against Fulmer's change-up – an RBI triple by Leury Garcia and a bloop single by Jose Abreu.
“We need to come together as a team right now and compete to the best of our ability,” Fulmer said. “We just have to get that one key hit. We’re always just one hit away, especially with this lineup. I know we can do it; they know they can do it.
“We’re staying positive right now. Once it happens, it’s going to get rolling.”
Presently, it’s rolling in the wrong direction. The Tigers have lost six of seven and seven of 11, and were four games under .500 heading into Game 2.